Update: October 2011 paragraph deleted.

On a European level debates continue. For more read yesterday’s Guardian article by Timothy Garton Ash:

“Cameron may have helped the Polish right, but he has not served Britain” –  Garton Ash analyses new political groupings in the European parliament. His comment:

 “A dubious rightwinger now heads conservatives in Europe. What on earth does the Tory leader think that he’s doing?…What service has the Conservative leader done to his own party? Or to Britain?…” (Quote from The Guardian Thursday 30th. July, 2009).

 

Egyptian Police Prevent Palestinians from contacting the U.S. Gaza Convoy. Picture by

Egyptian Police Prevent Palestinians from contacting the U.S. Viva Palestina Gaza Convoy. Picture by Iman Badawi Egyptian Activist. July, 2009

I’ve received several important testimonies from the Rafah Border. They add to the picture of what is happening in Gaza, in Rafah and in Palestine. Different sources. Here is one of them. I do not want to alter it’s message so I have left it unedited. (F.L.)..more to follow…

“It is not next year, but now, that we can help…Ourselves, Palestine and the World”

 On July 18th,  Le Philistin wrote :  A second convoy Viva Palestina enters  Gaza

 09 19 09

Yes, that’s true, a second convoy entered Gaza, with a small part of what had been planned to bring in, as humanitarian help.

At the Rafah border, unique passageway between Palestine and the rest of the world, we saw the arrival of two buses, full of United States citzens..

_ that did not want to stop at the border, in order to help Palestinian people to enter their land, nor they protested against the bullying of those people by the soldiers..

_ that were numerous holding flags.. NO, not the Palestinian flag ! They held the flag of the USA ! Yes, the one that floated over Saigon, Kabul and Bagdad..

_ that said, « we are americans », we don’t want any trouble », « we are to enter Gaza, that’s all ! »

so they did not even talk to Palestinian people in Egypt..

Let alone the international camp that demand the end of the siege !All communication with them had been forbidden by Egyptian authorities. 

By the way, let us remember that Egyptian government is a mere henchman for the « zionist entity », itself spearhead for the « empire », the « international community », no matter the name,  decisions are taken

by the political representatives of a worldwide power (which is also economic, financial, military, diplomatic and mediatic). 

If Egypt is the country that receives the biggest grants from the USA (barely smaller than the one received by the zionist entity), it is to break the resistance of the (Palestinian AND Egyptian) people. 

The egyptian henchman is used to make the hard job and let us believe he is responsible, make us forget the israelian crimes and the utter complicity of the empire (most of the governments, but mainly usa and europe). 

If you call on egyptian embassies, do not forget to call on your own governments and representatives as well. 

Why is the empire so afraid of the international camp for the end of the zionist siege ? 

It is like Asterix’s gaul village. A tiny place of invincible resistance against occupation. A seed of Palestine germing and forming an ear of wheat on the other side of the barbed wire.. and that only wants to grow in a wheat field. 

It is international ! People come from the usa, France, Italy, UK, Denmark, Morocco, Sweden, Barhein, Germany, Palestine.. from everywhere in the world and of course from Egypt. 

It is dangerous ! cops and soldiers advise Palestinians (and others) that anyone that would talk to us, would never be allowed to pass (the border). As a matter of fact, anybody, normally used to submission, when in touch with us, might be contaminated by the taste of freedom and justice. 

It is civil society’s child (like the Caravan for Palestine in 2005) and that is why it is ignored by governments, media, parties and even big groups which claim that they care about Palestine (but do not support an elected government because they do not think like them.. my, my, my !). 

It is the potential to put an end to the zionist siege, which is inhumanly and illegally imposed by the empire. For that, we only need to participate. Not only few of us, but by the thousand and by the million. Not necessarily going ALL to Rafah, but forming committees, groups or soviets (no matter the name),  where people meet as friends, relatives, colleagues or neighbours, to do something collectively:

 _ gather and spread information about the siege, about zionism. About Palestinian resistance and the means to support it. About the demand of the end of the siege, which is a question of life and death for Gaza, for Palestine and for Humanity. 

_ organize wider and wider news networks because media only broadcast lies and people need to know the truth. For instance that Egypt is already occupied territory, particularly Sinaï. If we do not resist, they will treat the whole planet as they treat Palestine. 

_ gather financial support, collect money, in the neighborhood, at work, at school, at the yoga club, etc. 

_ pay for the travel expenses of one or more members of the committee. If there is some money left, you can help other groups or take it to Egypt and help Palestinian wounded, etc.

 _ and go straight away and join the camp for a day, a week or a month. To stay in that magic place and live practically, with body and soul this ideal of justice that we all share in our minds.

 The war of Israel on Palestine is the war of the empire on the populations

is

the war of the money on the human being !

 Now, some words especially for the people on the front line, my friends on the camp, my brothers and sisters on the Palestinian border, feeling every day, in their flesh and spirit, the injustice and pain caused by zionism, by racism, by arbitrary decisions taken in order to bring a whole people to their knees.

 What we realize when we are in Rafah, is that this resistance, which is, at the moment, mainly Palestinian, will never surrender. All the attempts to kill it only make it stronger.

And in the camp, you feel, as nowhere else, how much you are part of it, how deeply you belong to this marvellous adventure of the human heart. 

What we realize when we are in Rafah, is that this resistance, which is, at the moment, mainly Palestinian, will never surrender. All the attempts to kill it only make it stronger.

And in the camp you feel as nowhere else, how much you are part of it, how deeply you belong to this marvellous adventure of the human heart.

You, at the border are the proof that Palestinian strength and determinatin to resist are spreading all over the world. You are the representative of the increasing consciousness of the absurdity of this world governed by money and war.

You are holding the banners of Palestine, Justice and Liberty.

You bother the army because you “are singing to live in a peaceful world”.

You puzzle the police because

You are “dancing to live in a peaceful world”

You outsmart the intelligence because

You “are ready to live in a peaceful world”.!

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Palestinian Authority to rescind its decision to close down the office the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television in the West Bank. The network had been accused of broadcasting “incitement and false information”.

According to the IFJ: This decision (to close the network.F.L.) is a serious violation of press freedom,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. ” It shows intolerance on the part of the Palestinian Authority and suggests that it is trying to control media by suppressing reporting which it does not like. The ban should be lifted immediately.”

The Palestinian Authority yesterday (Wednesday the 15th.) ordered the office of Al-Jazeera to close down after allegations that the network, which is very popular in Palestine, was displaying bias against the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who is also in charge of the Ministry of Information, has according to reports signed the order to close the office until the court decides on the case against Al Jazeera filed by the Ministry.

 The move against the network is believed to have been triggered by comments made by a senior member of the Fatah movement on the satellite channel about the alleged involvement of President Abbas in a plot to poison Yasser Arafat, former Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. The IFJ says the use of the courts in a case like this will intimidate all media and the Authority should find other ways of challenging the comments that have been made.

“If the authorities want to counter these statements they should do so in a professional and transparent manner,” said White. “Then journalists can report their position and provide the balance they say is needed.” The IFJ says public figures and political leaders must show tolerance of adverse reporting and respond to it in the context of continuing support for independent media and democratic pluralism. (Text in bold: IFJ press release).

Latest news from the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border:

Joy and shame at Rafah July 15

 “Yesterday, July 15, should have been a day of rejoicing here at Rafah Gate because the Viva Palestina convoy had finally been authorized to enter Gaza, but it turned into a nightmare for the many Palestinian families held up on the Egyptian side. Finally, at 10 pm we were smiling again when we saw Jenny Linnel and Nathalie Abu Chakra, two members of ISM-Gaza come through the Gate. The Egyptians had been denying them entry because they had arrived in Gaza on board the ships of the Free Gaza movement.

 For those who don’t know the Rafah Gate, the frontier between Egypt and Gaza is situated in the middle of nowhere– 2 kilometers from Rafah. There is no hotel; the Egyptian police have closed the town to foreigners and have installed dozens of checkpoints—I would say one every 50 meters! And you can’t tell me it’s to stop contraband headed to Gaza because all the pathways leading to the tunnels are wide open.

  Large numbers of Palestinian families denied entry for weeks on end–or longer—are forced to live in hotels in El Arish, a seaside resort 40 kilometers from the border. Because it’s high season, the hotels have hiked up their rates, so it costs these families a fortune. And that’s without the taxi fares. The price of a taxi between El Arish and Rafah is anywhere from 35 to more than 100 Egyptian pounds, and if you want to avoid the checkpoints, it can run to close to 300 pounds.

 Among these families are Palestinians living abroad who have come to visit their families, to attend weddings; others are returning from hospital stays in Egypt or abroad; there are also young people who have finished their studies etc….Everyone has his or her own story.

 Elated at news of the arrival of the Viva Palestina convoy, many of these families, exhausted and in debt, came today to try their luck at Rafah, hoping that the Egyptian police would be more lenient and that they might be able to get some help from members of the convoy.

 But that was, unfortunately, not the case: for these families the day turned into a nightmare. They had arrived early in order not to miss the convoy, so they waited all day in the scorching sun. The first members of the convoy began to arrive around 2 pm in buses under heavy security.

 Then the horror began: at this very moment, the Egyptian riot police set upon the Palestinian families them and began forcibly evacuating them. People were shouting, screaming, weeping—and the cops kept on beating them savagely.

 We tried to slip into Rafah Gate in the midst of the confusion. We even succeeded, but were then dragged back out.

 The scene we were witnessing was once again so shocking that (someone with us) furious, was shouting insults at Mubarak and his minions.

 L. got into one of the buses and called for the help of the members of the convoy, but they replied that there was nothing they could do. “We want to get into Gaza and we don’t want any trouble.”

 A man in the bus called out, “I’m a Palestinian.” And one Palestinian woman, stuck in Egypt for many days couldn’t help saying to him, “Oh, fine, you’re a Palestinian from America and I’m a Palestinian from Gaza. You can get in and I am not even allowed to return to my home in Gaza.” By then the Egyptian police had arrived and they pulled Leila and this woman out of the bus.

 No contact between Palestinians and foreigners. That has been the order of the day every day since we pitched our tents here at Rafah.

 We can understand the attitude of the members of this impressive convoy, with its buses, refrigerator trucks and vans. It has been so difficult for them to get this far with half of their humanitarian aid(the other half was confiscated in Alexandria) that it was hard for them to jeopardize delivery of the remaining supplies by attempting to help the people they were watching being beaten up before their very eyes. They would have been heavily penalized—they would have been refused entry into Gaza.

 How can one comprehend Egyptian policy? How can one understand these Egyptian policemen who viciously beat the Palestinians and treat them like sub-humans, like enemies? Why prevent the Palestinians from returning to their own homes? Who gives the orders? Why not tell them what procedures they need to follow? And, by the way, is there one? We have asked these questions countless times, and each time we got a different answer. The only thing we are sure of is that the Egyptian authorities are pathologically corrupt, that they collaborate willingly with the Zionist entity and that they lie to their police force and army units to make sure they keep mistreating the Palestinians.

 We are going to wait for the return of the Viva Palestina convoy and we hope they will not be satisfied with 24 hours in Gaza, because the border is still closed, especially for Palestinians.

 PS : A good news : Kefiah Ib Mousa Hamed, the Palestinian woman with kidney problems we found lying on the ground in front of Rafah gate some days ago came back and was the only one to be allowed to enter into Gaza.

Latest news: 10 pm.

 Greetings from the Rafah border.

 Just think—Jenny and Natalie are right here with us in the camp! They are finally free. These two marvelous women brightened up our day! We hugged and kissed and talked about all sorts of things., we took pictures and filmed. We were all so happy. This is just a quick update to let you. Please forward this.”  (Message from International Movement to Open the Rafah Border).

According to the Guardian newspaper (breaking news) “The Palestinian Authority said today it was suspending the West Bank operations of al-Jazeera, alleging incitement and unbalanced reporting by the Arab news station from the Palestinian territories“.

For further information on this story click here.

According to information received today, Natalie Abou Shakra of ISM Gaza and Jenny Linnell are free, safe and well.

Breaking the siege?

July 15, 2009

Word has just reached me that:

 “The Viva Palestina U.S. convoy entered into Gaza with half of the aid (the Egyptian authorities stopped it in Alexandria). The Egyptian police pushed Palestinian families away from the Rafah border by force and denied them entry into Gaza”.

The Viva Palestina U.S. Convoy has reached Rafah. Just ‘finishing up bureaucratic requirements at Rafah crossing’ – see this link.

Updates on the U.S. Gaza Convoy from Werner – Viva Palestina member. July 14, 2009 – 2 pm (updates came to me via the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border. F.L.)

“The final negotiations are still underway at the moment; it looks like we may have an extension of the stay (in Gaza) beyond 24 hours (all those protests in the US have paid off); all of our aid is permitted to enter, but not the vehicles (unless there’s a miraculous breakthrough in the next hour or so) save for a few ambulances.  Many of us were forced to spend precious time (about 5 hours) at the US embassy this morning signing affidavits; this is the text of the affidavit:

“I have read and understand the travel warning issued by US Dept. of State relating to travel to the Gaza Strip; I assume the risk for myself and I understand the Embassy does not recommend my travel to the Gaza Strip; I also understand that the Embassy cannot provide me with consular services in the Gaza Strip”

 Our taxdollars at work!! Viva Palestina!!

Werner’s 4pm Update: “It looks like we will only have 24 hours after all; the Egyptian authorities have been very obstinate.  We will hopefully enter Gaza tomorrow morning (best case scenario) or Thursday morning.  All the supplies will come with us, but not the vehicles (except for two ambulances).  There are three young French men from Paris with us.”

 

Perishable supplies stranded at the Rafah Gate.

Perishable supplies at the Rafah Gate. Photo International Movement to Open the Rafah Border June 2009

A sad and familiar story – as a tiny fragment of the ‘quintessential Palestinian experience’ comes to light again. This time U.S. Viva Palestina activists are witnesses:

“It takes place at a border, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those modern barriers where identities are checked and verified” (Rashid Khalidi in journalist Lala El-Haddad’s blog: Diary of a Palestinian Mother – see my  post of May 12th, 2009).

My questions are: When will President Obama start listening? He once said: “Show me the movement” (meaning he needed some outward sign of what people want…Obama’s quote is referred to in the forthcoming film FoodInc and on BBC Radio in ‘The Food Programme’)

People want peace. So many of us want the borders open, children fed, and people cared for properly. So what about the worldwide Palestine solidarity movement? How much bigger does this vast, international solidarity movement need to get for President Obama to notice it and take action?

How long will the convoy be able to keep going?  How much food and medicine will be wasted? How many more (children, parents, sisters, brothers) will die in this global political and bureaucratic mess before the ‘right forms’ reach the ‘right people’? And what are the vested interests that encourage the British government, the United Nations and the European Union to prop up a repeat performance of this cruel smokescreen-charade?

“The Viva Palestina U.S. convoy has been facing barrier after barrier in recent days despite having initially hoped to cross into the Gaza Strip this morning.  The Egyptian government, collaborator in Israel’s severe blockade for the past 2 years, has set up a course of administrative obstacles which will delay the group’s entry into Gaza” (For more see U.S. Viva Palestina site).

I read Olly Zanetti’s article on police surveillance in the ‘New Internationalist’ magazine today and immediately renewed my subscription.

We know some of what Zanettii is saying already, but there’s plenty more ‘meat’ there for activists and journalists alike. Marc Vallee, a photojournalist describes a Gaza protest in Britain:

‘I was working at a protest against the attack on Gaza. I saw an officer with a camera speaking to another officer, who I know works with the FIT. (The Police Photographers Forward Intelligence Team -the FIT as they have come to be known – F.L) They were going through a notebook which had a number of pictures in it, spotter’s cards. And I got a shot of it. Enlarging the picture, you can see the mug shots with people’s names underneath each one. Not codes or aliases, but full names. They were clearly looking for particular individuals.’  (New Internationalist, July 2009)

Viva Palestina U.S. is calling on friends and supporters to gather outside Egyptian consulates across the U.S. on Tuesday, July 14, as they make their way toward the Suez Canal and into the Sinai Peninsula to deliver humanitarian aid and medical supplies to the people of Gaza.

They said: “We have met all the new bureaucratic requirements imposed by the Egyptian authorities, and we therefore have the right to expect a speedy passage to Gaza. However, we must prepare for unwarranted further attempts to frustrate us perhaps with a view to stopping such convoys in the future. Those individuals and groups gathering outside Egyptian consulates tomorrow will either be able to help us break through those blockages or be able to celebrate our overcoming them. We want to be on the border of Gaza on Tuesday night and in Gaza on Wednesday morning. Viva Palestina!”

“Let the Aid through.Let the Covoy through.Let the trucks through.” (Viva Palestina U.S.)

I’ve just had word of some lovely ‘birthday’ messages from the protestors at the Rafah border, who’ve been holding out for thirty days! Congratulations folks! (F.L.)

July 13 from the Rafah Border (by the International Movement to Open the Rafah border):

” The international camp is set up in the front of the Rafah, Egypt with Gaza border to demand the opening of the border and the end of the siege.

 This “siege of the siege,” has been here for one month! We want to celebrate these 30 days of our presence here by sharing our words with you:

 We remind you by our presence that the world says: “Gaza will be free”. Paki

 I love you Palestine. Jihad

 We know we are almost 7 billions people in the world, but here, we are only 20 people at the nearest point to Gaza. Since we don’t believe in our governments mercy, we want to be the messengers of peace and justice. Moutaz

 We are all Gazans. Nadine

 May God strenghen your hearts and strenghen our hearts for you. Ziad

 No slave takes permission from his master to make a revolution. Galal

 Would you prefer to open the border or open  the bathroom? Oh, no question! Othman

 Gaza, a taste of vanilla. Nour

 I have faith in true justice. Even if it looks weak or minimum,and we are so few in number we are strong in heart. Justice will win. Hisham

 I want to say to Gaza, “Don’t be afraid, the people of the world will never forget you”. Nada S.

 The pilgrimage to Rafah is a holy duty. Ashraf

 I am ready to spend all my life here to support Gaza people. Shad

 I love the world more than before. Ahmed Afifi

 It is not easy to reach the international camp, it is even more difficult to leave it. But all those who have the good fortune to join come away with the renewed strength to continue to work for justice. Chris

 This camp is a little rock of humanity and joy in the big zionist boots. Dine

 Our governments closed the Rafah border, but the people wil open it, inshaa Allah. Gaza, you are not alone. Long live Palestine free, from the  river to the Mediterranean. Iman

 Only crazy dreamers can free the world. Nada K.

 We invite you to join us.

 (International Movement to Open the Rafah Border – IMORB)

(International Movement to Open the Rafah Border) copy follows:

Viva Palestina Convoy update #3 July 12, 2009, 7 pm Cairo

“The Viva Palestina members who spent the night in their buses at the Suez Crossing after they were stopped by Egyptian authorities on July 11 are now making their way to the nearby city of Ismailia and are preparing to resume their travels toward Gaza imminently.

British Member of Parliament George Galloway, who has met up with former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in Cairo, was working with Egyptian and U.S. authorities to expedite the passage of the convoy over the Suez Canal and into Gaza.

 New York City Councilmember Charles Barron, who led the group at the Suez Canal, says,

“Whether these requirements are genuine or not, we will get around these obstacles. We are going to Gaza.”

 Egyptian authorities have held up the convoy on the grounds that it has not acquired the necessary travel permits from U.S. officials in order to cross into Gaza.

 “If the Egyptian authorities want us to jump through yet another hoop, we will, even though their ambassadors in Washington, DC, London, and Tripoli, Libya were already supplied with this information, at their request. The U.S. embassy in Cairo was informed about the mission as was the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.” said Galloway. “So now we expect that there should be no further reasons for the delayed transportation of this urgently needed relief to the people of Gaza. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars of medicine, which are time-sensitive and perishable and which need to reach the children of Gaza.”

Another group of Viva Palestina delegates is in Alexandria to take possession of 47 vehicles that will be used to drive the group’s humanitarian and medical relief supplies through the Rafah border crossing. A third Viva Palestina element is continuing to gather additional aid in Cairo. Tomorrow, Viva Palestina plans to gather all its forces in Ismailia, load all of the collected aid on its vehicles, and make final preparations for the drive through the Sinai.

 The Viva Palestina convoy expects progress on all fronts tomorrow, but is prepared to call for solidarity protests at Egyptian embassies and consulates should that not materialize”.

Copy Ends

The International Movement to Open the Rafah border is sending me constant updates  on their long-standing sit-in at the Rafah Gate and the progress of the U.S. Gaza Convoy.

Activists and their tent at the Rafah Border. International Movement to Ope the Rafah Border. June 2009.

Activists and their tent at the Rafah Border. International Movement to Open the Rafah Border. June 2009.

IMORB says: “We are actually 16 people in our camp with mainly Egyptian activists.Yesterday afternoon, the Egyptian authorities put barbed wire at the door of the bathroom and cut the water, so now, we have no more access to the bathroom.

 Chris says : “Fortunately, I managed yesterday morning to take a shower, after climbing over the bathroom iron gate, so now we will keep dirty. I’m happy to be here again, because this is, may be, the lonely place in the world where you can feel free. We are moving freely, we are challenging the Egyptian authorities, Israel and the worldwide community and we ask them to lift this infamous siege.”

 We are waiting for the ‘Galloway’ convoy which has been stopped by the Egyptian authorities at the Moubarak Peace Bridge checkpoint.

It is a shame to see how Americans civilians are treated by the Egyptian authorities.

At the border, we are seeing daily the American forces convoy who come and enter into the Rafah gate (don’t know why they are coming every day and what they are doing inside) but when it comes to American civilians, they are denied to move freely in Egypt.

It is due to their commitment in helping Gaza people who are suffering from an humanitarian crisis. 

Last week, G8 members called for an end of the Gaza siege but it seems Egypt did hear nothing. We will not talk about the racist Zionist entity because we know all that they never care about other people, particularly Palestinian people, and the whole world accepts it.

U.S. Viva Palestina convoy update

The Egyptian authorities didn’t allow them to cross the Moubarak Peace Bridge and to enter into Sinai. They are safe and back in Cairo…. They will try again on Monday!”

 IMORB is appealing for help for the U.S.Viva Palestina Convoy…and asks concerned citizens to:

 Contact the Egyptian embassy in Washington DC and call for the immediate release of the Viva Palestina convoy. Call 202-966-6342, fax 202-244-4319 and e-mail embassy@egyptembdc.org